- Craig Custance
The beauty of those working in hockey is that their passion for the sport runs just as high as those who cheer on the teams. It’s the middle of the summer, and even while some were relaxing at a cottage or in the mountains, they took a moment to answer one question fans love to debate: If you were starting a franchise from scratch and could choose from any current player in the NHL, who would be your top choice?
Who is, in essence, the NHL's top "franchise player"?
I asked a dozen NHL executives, coaches and players to send in their top five franchise picks, in order, then assigned point values for each vote to come up with an overall ranking.
They didn't disappoint.
“We have this debate on our staff,” one Eastern Conference executive said. “For me, there’s no clear-cut answer. I kept changing my list. If you called me tomorrow, this list might change.”
Some wanted to factor in contracts. One assistant GM wanted to turn back time in coming up with his final list.
“Can I get a young Pavel Datsyuk?” he joked.
To keep things simple, there were no other factors brought to the table. It was simply a request to pick the five best players to build a franchise around. In all, the panel is made up of four current team executives (assistant GM or GM), one former GM, four current head coaches, one respected assistant coach and a player from each conference. The ballot of one of the coaches was excluded from the point total because he preferred not to rank them in any particular order. (The excluded ballot looked like this: Jonathan Toews, Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty, Shea Weber and Jamie Benn.)
Here are the overall results